Germany made an excellent start to their EURO 2012 campaign with a win over the Portuguese. Joachim Low preferred Gomez over Klose and Postiga started instead of Almeida for Portugal. Other players in the starting XI were as expected. Unlike the first match of the evening, the Lviv stadium was roaring with supporter’s chants which added to the atmosphere in the buildup to the game.
It was an equally contested first half, with both the teams trying to play some good football to break open the opponent’s defense. When one had the ball the other team defended deep in their own half. The backlines were careful not to get caught high-up and allow counterattacks to penetrate them. But Germany had much better opportunities, their passing and movement was slick and entertaining. They lacked the final product though, with many opportunities in and around the box getting wasted. The Portuguese were good in possession initially but gave the ball away frequently and invited German pressure.
Coentrao made a scorching run through the middle in second minute and earned a corner. Ronaldo was tightly marked by Boateng and slipped away only once but his cross ended up as a corner. Their best chance came in the last minute, when Pepe curled a dead ball, only for it to hit the post and land on the goal-line, eventually cleared.
The German defense held their line well, and ahead of them Khedira and Schweinsteiger kept rotating their positions and took turns going forward. Khedira was much more useful with his passing when he made forward runs. Ozil tried to shake off Veloso and was found everywhere, operating on left, right and center of the pitch. Schweinsteiger covered for Lahm on the left and kept out Nani and Pereira. Muller was the only one who had a bad first half. He frequently gave the ball away, and didn’t know where to go when he was marked by two Portuguese players.
Podolski played from deep positions and tried to start attacks with the help of Lahm and Ozil. He was good in the air, winning almost all the duels. Meireles found himself in the pocket of space left by Khedira, but didn’t make much use of it. Both Moutinho and Meireles took turns to venture forward. Ronaldo was not at his best, straying many passes away. Mats Hummels made some very impressive forward runs to link up with the wings.
The coaches made no changes from the first half. This half started off on a lively note, as both Germany and Portugal came close to scoring. The energized game soon became a passing and tackling battle. With teams intending to adapt more attacking play, there was a flurry of fouls and cards. Germany soon took control of the game with Khedira and Ozil developing some good plays; still the game lacked that final piece of the puzzle. Bento introduced Oliveira for Postiga. He got into good positions in attack and proved to be useful.
Germany got the breakthrough in the 72nd minute with a thumping Gomez header when Schweinsteiger, Muller and Khedira combined well to produce a deflected cross. The goal delayed the introduction of Miroslav Klose who was eventually brought on. Varela came in for Meireles to provide extra energy in midfield. The Portuguese were wasteful with their chances, otherwise credited to the heroics of Mats Hummels.
The game became more open in the final stages with Ronaldo and Oliveira playing as strikers, but the German backline was poised not to let anything past them. Neuer made a stunning save from Varela’s shot in the closing stages of the game. Toni Kroos and Lars Bender were introduced very late, but didn’t change much in terms of tactics. Muller though was a disappointment. His crosses were finding no one and his runs lacked desire. Only positive thing was that he drew many fouls from the opponents.
A well contested game between two equally good sides. Both teams dominated in the middle of the park and Germany had more possession. A deflected cross found the head of Gomez who scored the only goal. Portugal tried to comeback but failed to penetrate a sturdy German defense. Though Gomez scored the decisive goal, PIE’s Man of the Match goes to Mats Hummels for his outstanding performance. His positioning, tackling and forward runs held the key for the clean sheet.